11 elephants died in plunge from waterfall while trying to save drowned calf

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

11 elephants died in plunge from waterfall while trying to save drowned calf

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At least 11 wild elephants died after plunging from a waterfall in a national park in Thailand, wildlife officials said Tuesday.

Five elephant carcasses were confirmed Tuesday from drone cameras days after six elephants were first spotted, said Sompote Maneerat, spokesman for the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

The animals were found at Haew Narok – Ravine of Hell – waterfall in Khao Yai National Park.

Park officials said five adult elephants and a calf were found at the waterfall Saturday. Officials said the baby elephant drowned and the five adults, found in a ravine below the baby, fell trying to reach it.

Elephant deaths: 6 wild elephants die after falling from waterfall in Thailand, reports say

‘Zombie gene’: Elephants rarely get cancer thanks to ‘zombie gene,’ study finds

The five additional elephants confirmed Tuesday were from the same herd, and only two elephants from the herd survived the incident, said Nattapong Sirichanam, governor of Nakhon Nayok province, according to Reuters.

The two surviving elephants had been trapped on a cliff above the baby elephant, park officials said.

A similar incident killed eight elephants at the same waterfall in 1992, and Sompote said the 11th death is the highest number of elephants to die in a single incident in Khao Yai.

According to Reuters, 3,500 to 3,700 wild elephants remain in Thailand. The park is home to about 300 elephants, the news agency reported.

Asian elephants are classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The surviving elephants will probably experience grief. When two elephants died this year at an Indianapolis zoo, officials confirmed that the rest of the herd reacted emotionally.

“We know that elephants grieve. They are intensely social,” Indianapolis Zoo President Rob Shumaker said.

Contributing: Joel Shannon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

 Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

Florida panthers and bobcats are walking weird Wildlife officials can’t figure out why

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Florida panthers and bobcats are walking weird. Wildlife officials can’t figure out why.

Experts have ruled out “numerous diseases and possible causes” that might explain why the cats are having extreme difficulty walking.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cuba

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cuba

When many people think about Cuba, their mind goes to rum, cigars and Fidel Castro. But there is so much more to this Caribbean island than that! It is an interesting and exciting place, and it is only within the last five years that U.S. citizens have been able to legally travel there. Here are five things about Cuba that you probably didn’t know.

Christmas Was Once Banned in Cuba

Credit: Millenius/Shutterstock

When The Grinch – ehem, I mean, Fidel Castro – came to power, he went right to work banning things that everyone loves, like Monopoly and, yes, even Christmas. He declared the entire country atheist and abolished Christmas and the paid work holiday that went with it because he wanted people to work on harvesting sugar instead of celebrating and giving gifts. After 30 long, sad years for the people of Cuba, whose population is truly largely a Catholic one, the Pope visited Havana and convinced Castro to reinstate Christmas. Even though it was January at the time, Cuban citizens ran right out to buy the Christmas trees and religious statues they weren’t allowed to have before. It is unclear whether Castro’s heart grew three sizes that day, but it seems unlikely.

Cubans Only Recently Got the Right to Buy a New Car

Credit: Suzanne Tenuto/Shutterstock

If you have ever wondered why Cuba is full of so many classic, 1950s-style cars, the answer might make you a bit sad. Beginning in 1959, Cubans were not allowed to buy a new car, so there were no cars on the streets newer than the 1959 models. In 2013, though, the laws changed, and citizens were able to start buying new cars without getting special permission from the state. The only problem? These cars are marked up by 400 percent, with prices running between $91,000 and $262,000. The average monthly earnings for a citizen of Cuba is equivalent to between 20 and 30 U.S. dollars, making owning a new car an impossible dream for most.

Cuba Once Had a Toilet Paper Shortage

Credit: dersigne/Shutterstock

In 2009, Cuba faced a crisis that no one else wants to think about: a shortage of toilet paper. While this seems a bit preposterous for a country like the U.S., keep in mind that Cuba produces some of its own toilet paper but has to import the rest. In 2009, the country did not have enough natural resources to make its own toilet paper and was also facing an economic crisis. Luckily the country eventually recovered enough to allow people to stock up on this bathroom essential, but it was surely a tough few months.

Cuba Is Home to the Largest Colony of Flamingos

Credit: GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock

Cuba is home to many beautiful and rare species of birds, including the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world. The birds stay here because the habitat is both perfect for their needs and located within protected areas. Flamingos are no exception, with the largest colony in the Western Hemisphere nesting in Cuba’s wetlands. In Humedal Rio Maximo-Caguey in particular, nearly 70,000 nesting flamingos have given birth to more than 50,000 chicks. That is one big feathery family!

Hardly Anyone in Cuba Can Access the Internet

Credit: xtock/Shutterstock

While travelers can usually buy a scratch-off card that allows them to use the internet, as a rule, internet is hard to come by in Cuba. In 2011, a study reported that only around five percent of the population was able to access the worldwide web instead of just a government-created intranet that didn’t let them view anything that their leader didn’t want them to see. It was only in 2008 that Cubans were allowed to start buying computers at all, even if the prices were ridiculously high. The number of internet users has surely increased as technology has advanced, but it is highly likely that our friends in Cuba won’t be reading this article.

We bet you’ve never heard of these rare animals

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

We bet you’ve never heard of these rare animals

When we visit zoos, we often find an assortment of common animals, familiar creatures of nature that fill us with awe and delight. It’s a big world out there, however, and these familiar animals are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the abundance of fascinating species that inhabit the wilds of Earth.

As well-versed in the Animal Kingdom as you think you may be, there’s a good chance you still haven’t heard of the following five zoological species. They’re certainly not what you would find strolling around your local zoo.

Vaquita

Credit: Alex Rockheart / Shutterstock

Get to know the vaquita now as it currently resides on the critically endangered species list. First discovered in 1958, this rare marine mammal is a porpoise that’s found in the northern Gulf of California, Mexico. Translated to “little cow,” the vaquita sports a round black patch around its eyes, which matches a pair of black lips that appear to be smiling.

Their bodies are small and stout, measuring approximately 4.9’ and 110 lbs at their largest, compared to average porpoises that can get as big as 8’. The few remaining vaquita can be found in shallow waters, which is what contributed to their declining population. Shallow waters are popular for illegal fishing nets in the waters off Mexico.

Hagfish

Credit: buttchi3 Sha Life / Shutterstock

It’s not the most endearing name for an animal, but the hagfish isn’t the most attractive creature of nature. If not for a July 2017 story in which a truck full of hagfish overturned in Oregon, even fewer people would know what this unusual-looking animal is.

The hagfish is an eel-shaped fish that produces a slime used to slip away from predators. When threatened, it’s capable of producing enough slime to fill a five-gallon bucket in minutes. Secreted from more than 100 glands, the slime expands when it touches seawater, growing to nearly 10,000 times the original emitted amount.

As if that weren’t odd enough, the hagfish has no jaw. Instead, they use keratin teeth to dig into carcasses and feast.

Lowland streaked tenrec

Credit: Ryan M. Bolton / Shutterstock

At first glance, this tiny critter may look like a relative of the common porcupine or hedgehog. Despite its appearance, however, it is related to neither. The lowland streaked tenrec is a nocturnal mammal found in Madagascar and is identifiable by the yellow stripes that run down its snout

It may not be related to the porcupine, but it certainly uses the same tricks. Those spines on its back aren’t for decoration, and when this tiny critter is threatened, the lowland streaked tenrec will take the offensive and attack, using its quills to drive off predators.

To help get around the jungles and rainforests they’re often found in, tenrecs are proficient at climbing. They’re capable of hanging by their foot or toe as they scale up to their destination.

Sunda colugo

Credit: Joshua Davenport / Shutterstock

You’ve likely heard of a lemur before, so chances are you’ll be able to deduce what a Sunda flying lemur is, right? It’s not quite that easy, thanks to the individual responsible for naming this southeast Asian mammal. Not a relative of the lemur, the Sunda colugo is a relative of primates and is only one of two species of colugo in the world.

The Sunda colugo, or flying lemur, isn’t capable of flying, but to navigate the forests of Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, it can glide a distance of 446 feet. A flap of leathery skin stretches from its fingers to the end of its tail, creating enough surface area to keep it from crashing to the ground.

Another fascinating feature visible only to those looking for it is the animal’s “toothcombs,” or incisors that are used both for feeding and to groom out parasites.

Okapi

Credit: Jin Hrebicek / Shutterstock

It’s the black and white striped legs that immediately make people think the okapi is related to the common zebra. The head, however, has a distinct familiarity with giraffes, which is the family this mammal belongs to.

Found in the Ituri Forest of Central Africa, okapi are a rarity. They were so elusive that scientists didn’t know of this giraffe relative until the turn of the 20th century. Rotating ears give it the benefit of hearing what’s in front and what may be creeping up behind. Much like the giraffe, okapi sport a dark, prehensile tongue that can reach their ears and eyes.

Though there is no accurate count of how many okapi remain in the Central African rainforest, the estimate is around 25,000, making it an endangered species.

The rarities of Mother Nature

Credit: megscapturedtreasures / Shutterstock

While you may not see any of these incredible oddities in a common zoo, Mother Nature is a veritable melting pot of the unknown. To experience it all, you can either go on the most extensive safari known to man or you can continue researching these five rare animals.

 

 

5 Best Places to See Wild Penguins Beyond Antarctica

(THIS ARTICLE IS CUTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 Best Places to See Wild Penguins Beyond Antarctica

Penguins may be rare to see in the wild, but that doesn’t mean you have to go all the way to Antarctica to catch a glimpse of them in their natural habitat. There are between 17 and 19 species of penguin that currently exist on the planet, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, the penguin population is declining because of climate change, overfishing, and pollution, all of which have had a drastic impact on the places they call home.

Cape Town, South Africa

Credit: SL_Photography / iStock

South Africa’s southern tip is home to the African penguin, particularly at Boulders Beach just outside of Cape Town. The African penguin is one of the endangered species, having lost 80 percent of its population over the past 50 years. The penguin colony in Africa, which begins in southern Namibia and goes all the way down to Port Elizabeth in South Africa, began not too long ago, in 1983. They migrated from Dyer Island to reach the plentiful food source at Boulders Beach. Thanks to conservation efforts, there are now more than 3,000 African penguins in the Boulders Beach colony, so plenty to see here where penguins are concerned. Boulders Beach is located inside of Table Mountain National Park, and aside from penguin viewing with magnificent views, the area is also great for swimming, hiking, wind sailing, and plenty of other wildlife viewing opportunities.

Tierra del Fuego, Argentina and Chile

Credit: diegograndi / iStock

The Tierra del Fuego archipelago at the southernmost part of South America is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan. Two-thirds of the area is Chilean and one-third is Argentine. The islands of Tierra del Fuego are where Magellanic, Humboldt, Rockhopper, Gentoo, and King penguins can be found in the wild. Penguins can be reached via the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia, Argentina. From there, you can find day tours to visit the penguins, some even offering the chance to walk among them (in tour groups that never exceed 20 people). Here the penguins, often in crowds of hundreds, waddle adorably along the shore.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Credit: jmmf / iStock

Most penguins don’t live in tropical climates, nor in the Northern Hemisphere; in fact, only the endangered Galapagos penguins do, and they live here year-round. This is unusual for penguins, as they usually migrate with the seasons. The western Galapagos islands have much cooler water, and that is where many of the penguins can be found, namely on Fernandina Island or Isabela Island. No tour of the Galapagos Islands would be complete without visiting the penguins. Likely you will see the penguins from a boat, but if your tour offers swimming, you may very well find yourself in the rare circumstance of being in the water alongside these cute little guys. The Galapagos National Park Service does not allow tourists in certain areas, so before booking a tour, it’s best to determine with them that you will be able to see the penguins from a reasonable distance.

Phillip Island, Australia

Credit: 4FR / iStock

The smallest species of all penguins, called the Little Penguin, live mainly on Phillip Island, about a 90-minute drive from Melbourne (where you can also see koalas, seals, whales, anteaters, and wallabies). The only other place they can be found is in New Zealand. These penguins are about a foot tall and weigh less than 3 pounds. Today, the most typical way to see them is from an elevated viewing platform when they get back from the day’s fishing to feed their young. If you would like to see this grand parade of penguins up-close, there are limited tour options available, allowing people to walk among the penguins on a remote beach.

Sub-Antarctic New Zealand

Credit: Darren Creighton / iStock

While 13 species of penguin have been spotted in New Zealand, only nine breed there, and only three on the mainland. Those three, which people can visit, are the Little Penguin, the Hoiho Penguin, and the Fiordland Crested Penguin. You can see the Little Penguin in the evening or at night when they are on shore in Oamaru, Akoaroa Harbour, Marlborough Sounds, Dunedin, and Stewart Island. At Otago Peninsula, not too far south from Dunedin, you’ll be able to visit the rare, yellow-eyed Hoiho Penguins up-close in their natural habitat. The Fiordland Crested Penguin is one of the rarest of them all, and they live on New Zealand’s South Island in the rainforests of Lake Moeraki, Stewart Island, Fiordland, and Haast. Because these wild penguins are on the decline, many tour operators offer sustainable ecotourism.

Some penguin species are endangered and some aren’t (yet). The best time to pay wild penguins a visit, outside of Antarctica, is during the Southern Hemisphere summer season. During this time these charming tuxedoed creatures spend more time breeding and nesting onshore.

Alligator in Chicago’s Humboldt Park Lagoon caught overnight

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE)

 

Alligator in Chicago’s Humboldt Park Lagoon caught overnight

Alligator in Chicago’s Humboldt Park Lagoon caught overnight
Professional alligator trapper Frank Robb of Florida on July 16, 2019, displays the alligator that eluded capture for a week in the Humboldt Park Lagoon. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)
The alligator that eluded authorities for a week in the Humboldt Park Lagoon, exhausted after its week of celebrity, was caught overnight and made an appearance at a news conference Tuesday morning near the lagoon.

The male, 5-foot-3 alligator, weighing about 30 or 40 pounds, was captured around 1:30 a.m. at the northwest side of the lagoon, officials said. Alligator trapper Frank Robb, who was brought in over the weekend to replace a volunteer trapper, was walking along the shoreline when he heard the alligator and saw it in lily pads, its eyes shining.

When Robb spotted the alligator, the animal dipped down in the water. Robb was able to catch the alligator with one cast of hooks attached to a fishing rod.

He then reeled the alligator in, grabbed him and tied him up, he said.

“The second I put my hands on him, the hook fell out,” Robb said. The animal “put up a little fight” but was unharmed, he added, joking that when he’s asked how he catches alligators, he says “just barely.”

Robb said that he had little sleep overnight, and the alligator “was exhausted, too, I’m sure.”

The alligator that eluded capture for a week in the Humboldt Park Lagoon is displayed near the park's boathouse in Chicago on July 16, 2019.
The alligator that eluded capture for a week in the Humboldt Park Lagoon is displayed near the park’s boathouse in Chicago on July 16, 2019. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

At the news conference, the alligator was in a dark-colored box with a yellow lid until Robb took it out and showed it to members of the news media. The animal didn’t make any noises when shown off.

Kelley Gandurski, director of Chicago Animal Care and Control, said the alligator was in good health.

“Wherever he came from or however he got here, he’s a very healthy animal,” Robb said.

During the news conference, a large group of residents joined the flock of media present, hoping to see the creature.

Grant Farmer, of the Humboldt Park neighborhood, stood nearby, extending his arms over the television cameras to snap a picture of the alligator with his smartphone.

“I would walk around previously this week hoping to get a glimpse of him, but I wasn’t able to see him,” he said.

The capture was the culmination of a weeklong quest to capture the exotic animal, presumed to be a pet that someone had abandoned in the historic West Side lagoon. Officials started searching for it midday July 9 after people began sharing photos of it on social media and someone called the city about the animal.

“The Humboldt Park alligator has captured the imaginations of the entire city of Chicago and beyond and has united residents who have been following this story for the last week,” Chicago Animal Care and Control said in a release earlier Tuesday.

Video: Officials share details of alligator capture

Video: Alligator makes public debut

Robb said that even before he got the call to come to Chicago, he had been among those following the news about the alligator.

“Everybody’s got different blessings, this is mine,” Robb said. “This is what I’ve spent every day of my life doing for the last 24 years.”

Officials said they haven’t yet figured out where the alligator will go now that it’s been captured.

On Sunday, animal control officials closed the eastern half of the park and hired Robb, an alligator expert from Florida, as the search entered its second week. The closures, which included streets near the park, were done on Robb’s advice to make the area around the lagoon quiet and free from distractions, according to animal control.

Robb, who owns Crocodilian Specialist Services in Florida, “immediately began assessing the park and lagoon,” according to animal control officials.

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Chicago police asked people to stay away from the lagoon and keep noise to a minimum.

With the capture, joggers and dog walkers returned Tuesday morning to Humboldt Park despite a light rain.

Laura Shields, who was walking her 8-year-old Australian shepherd mix, said she was disappointed when she realized the park was closed Monday. “It was definitely a bummer,” she said. “I come to the park two or three times day.”

“Alligator Bob,” a volunteer with the Chicago Herpetological Society, initially led efforts to capture the alligator.

Check back for updates.

Humor Poem: Cats

Cats

 

4 Cats in the house, chaotic as that may sound

Mother-in-Law is scared of cats, doesn’t come around

2 Big ole males, 3 years apart, 2 different Breeds

Finally act like brothers, they don’t try to tear the house down

I used to have me some dogs but they have all disappeared

 

About two months ago we got a couple of kittens to raise

Been together since birth though different Mothers and Breeds

Finally the four are friends as together they romp and play

The kittens are Ladies or they would have been dead right away

Kittens are so tiny it is so much fun to sit and watch they play

 

 

Some Cultures believe that Cats are the Guardians of Hell

I can see why people think that by the way they eat their prey

No visitors ever come here twice with the cats out in the yard

Not with two Lions, one Tiger and a huge Black Panther on display

If we could just make it to our car, it would be we who run away

South African lions eat ‘poacher’, leaving just his head

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

South African lions eat ‘poacher’, leaving just his head

A lion stretches out by the Luvuvhu river in Kruger National Park, South AfricaImage copyrightCAMERON SPENCER/GETTY IMAGES
Image captionLocal police said the lions ate almost all of the man’s body (file picture)

A suspected big cat poacher has been eaten by lions near the Kruger National Park in South Africa, police say.

The animals left little behind, but some body parts were found over the weekend at a game park near Hoedspruit.

“It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions,” Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP.

“They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains.”

Police have not yet established the victim’s identity. A loaded hunting rifle and ammunition were found next to the body, South African website Eyewitness News reports.

Lion poaching has been on the rise in Limpopo province in recent years.

The big cats’ body parts are sometimes used in traditional medicine, both within Africa and beyond.

Wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation says lion bones and other body parts are increasingly sought-after in South East Asia, where they are sometimes used as a substitute for tiger bones.

In January 2017, three male lions were found poisoned in Limpopo with their paws and heads cut off.

Related Topics

Because Of Article About Impossible Large Bird Spotted: This Article

BECAUSE OF ARTICLE FROM JUNEAU EMPIRE NEWSPAPER I JUST POSTED:THIS ARTICLE

 

Just a few moments ago I posted an article from the Juneau Alaska newspaper about an ‘impossibly large bird spotted’.  What I am going to tell you about is a personal experience I had back in about March of 2010. Because of my health issues I had to retire from being an ‘over the road’, ‘OTR’ truck driver, I job I spent basically all of my adult life doing. I never mentioned this event to anyone before quite frankly because I really didn’t have anyone to tell and it is n’t a story that I had any proof of anyway. So, believe it or not, that is up to you.

 

     I did a lot of loads that went from the mid-Atlantic states up into the North-West. I always enjoyed the longer runs because I could plan my trips out into driving sections of time where I enjoyed driving the most. When ever it was possible I enjoyed driving all nigh and sleeping from about 7-AM to 2 or 3-PM. Doing this meant that I could drive while there was less traffic on the roads, quieter, and safer. One early morning (about 4-5 AM local time) I was driving North-West on the two lane called Route 30 in NW Wyoming. This route cuts in just west of Little America Wyoming and takes you up into South-East Idaho, just a little south of the University of Idaho. This morning I was the only traffic in either direction and I was not yet to Cokeville Wyoming which was in a very vacant part of the road. This morning what got my attention was a large shadow of a flapping wing that stayed with me for about 5 flaps, or about 12-15 seconds. The wing flaps/shadow were on my drivers side just in front of me. The wing flaps were staying barely not in the beam of my headlights, as if it was pacing me, yet when it flapped you could see the shadow of the (right) wing. Folks, I was doing about 55 MPH, give or take about 5 MPH. I remember thinking to my self ‘how in the hell’, simply because, what kind of bird could have been that big because it was obvious that it was a whole lot bigger than an Eagle.

 

Then about 30 seconds later I got another shock. This time the same exact thing happened to me except, the wing shadow was on the passenger side of the truck and it stayed with me for about the same 12-15 seconds while I was still doing about 55 or so MPH. In both cases it had seemed as though the bird pealed off out of my light beam. In both cases I remember having the thought that it just wasn’t able to keep up any longer. At first I remember thinking that how did that bird do that, going from one side of the truck to the other. This would have meant that this bird would have been with me for about a full 60 seconds with me driving 50-60 MPH. My thoughts were, that’s just not possible. This is besides the fact that I had/have no doubt at all that this was a bird because of the flapping of its wings and even the shape of the shadows were of the curvature of a big birds wings plus the fact that I could sense the movement of large feathers on the curvature of those wings as they flapped. Then another reality struck me, that couldn’t have been one bird, it had to have been two different ones. One bird, especially one that size couldn’t have possible have been on my left, fade off to the left away from the truck then reappeared after about 30 seconds then reappear on my right side and stayed with me about another 15 seconds before it turned off to my/its right. In case you may be thinking that a bird may have been able to have picked up speed coming down off of a mountain making it possible to be able to go that fast for that long, this is an almost totally flat region of highway landscape, no mountains there.

 

So, go figure, think what you wish, that’s my story, believe what you want. I probably drove that stretch of road about 100 times through the years, I never had that happen to me any other time. Reading the fore mentioned story from the Juneau Alaska paper made me think back to the event. All that I know is that those two birds had massive wings and I have seen Eagles many times in my life and I know that these birds wings were way bigger that that of an Eagle. What kind of birds were they, I have no idea.

 

 

Impossibly large bird spotted in Mendenhall Valley (S.E. Alaska)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘JUNEAUEMPIRE.COM)

 

 


Impossibly large bird spotted in Mendenhall Valley

This is not the bird mentioned in this story. (123rf.com Stock Photo)

According to several eyewitness reports, a bird with a wingspan nearly the width of Mendenhall Loop Road has been spotted in the Mendenhall Valley.

The cryptozoological curiosity stems from a post in the popular Facebook page “Juneau Community Collective,” brought to the attention of the Empire by several readers. The Empire couldn’t track down a clear explanation of what the bird was, but we did talk to some bird experts and did a little digging on similar sightings from around Alaska.

Here’s the original post, from eyewitness Tabitha Bauer:

“Attn; I was just driving by the movie theater in the Valley and there was a huge black bird flying above the road. The wingspan had to be at-least 20 feet, it was almost as wide as the road. I have lived here all my life and have never seen anything like that, it freaked me out. It was not a raven or an eagle. This isn’t a joke. This thing was HUGE, almost the size of a small airplane. Did anyone else see it?”

The sighting was backed up by several others in a long comment thread on the post. Some were poking fun at the idea of a thunderbird or pterodactyl in the valley, but others weren’t so skeptical.

Bauer, recounting the sighting to the Empire a few days after spotting the bird, said it was “like an eagle, but five times as big.” She couldn’t think of any other way to describe the odd encounter.

She spotted it around 4 p.m. on Jan. 16, what would have been dusk. Bauer was driving to the bank, alone in her car.

“Right before the movie theater, I looked ahead of me and it was towards Superbear direction,” Bauer said, referencing the grocery store in the Mendenhall Mall and Gross Alaska Theatre’s Glacier Cinema.

There was rain on her windshield, so she turned on her wipers to clear the view.

That was when she saw a massive, jet-black bird with a short tail flying level with the treetops over Mendenhall Loop Road toward her. Bauer said the bird flapped its wings, soared a little higher, and flew at a fast clip over her car about 50 feet in the air.

“I looked up and right at that point, there was a gigantic, huge black bird flying right above my truck. It was basically following the roadway along the treetops.

“I slowed down to try to get a better look at it. It was heading toward the glacier, the wingspan was almost as wide as the road,” Bauer said, adding, “It was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was very concerning. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Bauer said that it definitely had feathers, but she couldn’t make out a beak.

“The body of it itself had to have been six to eight feet,” Bauer said. “I know it sounds nuts — I’ve been getting a lot of crap on Facebook about it like I am crazy — but I wanted to post it in case anyone else had seen it.”

Another woman, who asked that the Empire use only her first name, Diane, said she saw something very similar — this time perched, or attempting to perch, in a tree near her house late at night a few years ago.

Diane went out to smoke a cigarette at her Lemon Creek home and noticed that all the birds in the area were excited.

“All you heard was the whooshing sound in my tree. I went inside and grabbed a flashlight. It was so large, I couldn’t even get an outline of what type of bird it was,” Diane said.

Diane noticed downed branches littered her yard in the morning.

“That sounds crazy, but it was huge,” she said. “I don’t even go camping anymore.”

Similar sightings

Both of these accounts sound similar to a national headline-making event in 2002, when a very large bird was spotted in Southcentral Alaska.

A heavy equipment operator from Togiak spotted the bird then.

“At first I thought it was one of those old-time Otter planes,” the Alaska Dispatch News (now the Anchorage Daily News) quoted Moses Coupchiak, 43, a heavy equipment operator from Togiak, as saying. “Instead of continuing toward me, it banked to the left, and that’s when I noticed it wasn’t a plane.”

So what could this be? It’s debatable what the biggest bird in Alaska is, but one candidate is the black-footed albatross, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raptor biologist Steve Lewis said. They can have a wingspan of 6-8 feet.

But it’s highly unlikely an albatross would venture into the valley. Strong winds can sometimes blow an albatross inland, but they’re generally ocean-going birds that stick to the coast, Lewis said.

“Over the water there’s a potential to see something that may have wings like an albatross, but wouldn’t be jet black and wouldn’t be over the valley at all,” Lewis said.

The Stellar’s eagle is another candidate. Like the black-footed albatross, those can have a wingspan of 6-8 feet. They generally don’t venture as far north as Juneau, but as recently as the 1990s they were consistently spotted only a few miles from Juneau on the Taku River, near Canada.

A third, and more likely explanation is that the bird was an immature female bald eagle. Those are the largest birds that are frequently in the area, Lewis said. Young bald eagles have bigger feathers than older eagles, he explained, which aid them as they learn to fly and can make them look larger than they are.

Female bald eagles are generally larger than their male counterparts, Lewis added. Their job in a mating pair is to defend the nest, so it helps to be big and imposing to scare off potential nest robbers.

Bauer and Diane were both adamant about the size of the bird, so neither the albatross, Steller’s eagle or immature female bald eagle squares with their account. They’re both too small and the wrong colors.

The Federal Aviation Administration didn’t return calls to this story, but since both eyewitnesses described seeing this thing flap its wings, it’s unlikely it was a glider or a large drone, by their accounts.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.

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